Trigger Warning: Offensive/sexually explicit language
I know maybe people are sick of talking about this and I don’t know what one more internet statement is going to do, but I’d like to respond to the current situation surrounding the recent Carletonian article. You can learn more about it by reading this petition. (Please note I’m actually responding not to the article itself, but to the response following it). I think that many of the arguments surrounding it are continued in a variety of other areas at Carleton and, of course, beyond.
What I’ve noticed that is most concerning in the defenders of the article are this: First, that the article was meant as a joke and therefore doesn’t deserve to be criticized, and second that the response to the article is “overkill”.
I’ll break this down for easy digestion.
1) It was “just a joke”
So, if you’ve been in any kind of training for sensitivity/diversity you know about the difference between intent and impact. If you say something in jest, it does not necessarily mean that everyone will burst into laughter in response. For some people, especially people who may have gone through similar uncomfortable situations to those described by the article, situations involving sexual harassment or sexism in a STEM field or sexism in general, this is a nasty reminder and could even be potentially triggering. For people who have gone through this, it isn’t funny. It’s just another example of how women are treated as invalid, worthless, or inhuman.
I’m not saying you can’t joke about these things. (Freedom of speech, Salman Rushdie etc. etc.) But don’t hide behind humor. Remember that while this is a joke to you, who may have never experienced the inherent sexism present in the system, it is still ACTUALLY HAPPENING to many many people. Your joke may in fact be hiding this truth. If you’re laughing at it, it’s not that serious, right? Things like this don’t actually happen, right?
This leads me to my second point.
2) The response is “overkill”
It’s only overkill if you’re not living in it. I couldn’t tell you the number of times I’ve been talked over in class, the number of times my opinion hasn’t been given weight, when my judgment has been questioned or not even requested. And I know I’m not alone in this.
Sure, you can argue that this is just a part of being in a competitive setting, but who designed this setting and why do some people thrive while others don’t?
This is not to mention in general the other “jokes” or words you hear on campus about women and their place and their value. Take for example men at the front door of a party saying “Only girls” and separating women from their friends, as if women were chattel to be herded and corralled and put to use. Or the time someone on campus said (WARNING: explicit language) “She must have been a fucking feminist. She didn’t even give me a blowjob”. Or the countless occurrences of sexual assault on campus, reported or not.
I could go on and on, but I’d get too angry.
So yes, if you haven’t experienced this, maybe the response to the article seems exaggerated. But, please believe me, when you’re forced by the system around you to question over and over again whether you’re seen as human, the little things become extremely important.
In conclusion, please sign the petition and help make Carleton a place that supports people of all genders and all identities, and remember just because you haven’t experienced something personally it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Please take the time to consider the impact of your joke and whether it is worth the few hollow chuckles that it produces.